After Hours

"What is it good for? Absolutely nothing, say it again!"

Dr. Strangeswag, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the freebies.

One of the fastest ways to get a Geek of any sort, or almost anyone, really, to look up is something that has become near ubiquitous in our modern environment.  It has nothing to do with the OTHER ubiquitous things (you know what I'm talking about).  It's "Money for Nothing".  It's a "Free Ride".  It can be anything from "99 Red Balloons" to a "Pink Cadillac".  I'm talking, of course, about swag.

When I worked at NASA, they gave us swag (I have a coin made partially from metal that had flown on a Shuttle-Mir mission, for example, given to me gratis; I don't think "Major Tom" was involved, though).  When I went to a conference on Supercomputing a few years ago, when I was the point man on our Supercomputing Center, I was inundated with T-Shirts, demos, magnets, CRT screen cleaners, keychains, pens, folding coat hangers, pocket guides, whitepapers, Configuration Management tools, etc.

When my wife started her business, she was inundated with free pens, USB fans, USB hubs, retracting network cords, T-shirts, popcorn, "You ain't nothing but a hound dog" food, cat toys, a laptop bag, software, magnets, large paperclips, posters, a scarf, and tickets to movies or dining.

Some come with strings (dining, you need to sit through a business meeting).  Some come with no strings (a polo shirt I once won at a conference, a large nautical clock for when I'm "Sitting on the Dock by the Bay", a Pets.Com mousepad).  Some were "With Love from Me to You" items, such as a bottle of shampoo.

On one website I frequent following my favorite football team, The Redskin Report, the give-away is a team jersey for a contest winner.  I'll make no bones about lusting after an Art Monk or Darrel Green Jersey, but I came in fifth.

There's even free "Money" from PayPal when you sign up.  It's "Pennies from Heaven"!

And (to get totally geeky), I won a Star Wars Action Figure Set complete with the stand set back in 1978; I see those are highly prized collectables today.

I don't believe I could LIVE off Swag and Freebies (anyone crazy enough to try it for a month, document it, and put it on You-Tube?  I'll send you a free sample of Instant Ramen when you finish!), though I did see that the local grocery store was giving out a "Free Bird" before Christmas to good customers, but I think you might need to have purchased a bunch of "American Pie"s.

Of course, there are times when we miss out on the Swag.  I won a car (honest to God, a Chrysler Convertible, from Coca-Cola, late 1980s) that I didn't realize I'd won until two days after the time to claim it.

I "won" one of the Free Computers that were being given out (loaded with Adware) back during the heyday of the Bubble; I didn't see the message until my invite expired.  Two months later, when the company went out of business, everyone was allowed to keep the machine, which would have been a great score.

I "won" a 5 gallon bottle of Jack Daniels once (giant thing).  Too bad I was 12 at the time, my father enjoyed it.  I got $5.

Free Surgery!  Free Meds!  Free Food!  Free Shampoo!  Free.... Free...... Free..... Samples....  you name it, you can get it free (and yes, even the stuff we AREN'T talking about, from that first paragraph).  If you play your cards right (or rather, a red paperclip) you can even get a free "Love Shack".

Heck, in full disclosure mode, Jay even mentioned something real vague about Tech Republic Coffee mugs being a distant possibility (I believe he mentioned something about it being "In the year 2525") for those who helped with the Geekend... not that I'm asking (have enough, and Rebecca's the Coffee Guru in our family), just showing how the promise of swag sets every heart aflutter.  But if I never get it "My Heart will go on".

And with that last bad pun, I ask you this:  What is the best (and WORST) Swag you've ever gotten, where did you get it from, and do they still have some?  Ok, strike the last... but what's the best and worst swag you've gotten?  Oh, and did the constant song titles make this post easier or harder to read?  And did I miss any?  Please comment and let me know!

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